Governor of Buenos Aires Province María Eugenia Vidal has carved out a political name for herself as being tough on crime. One of the recurring themes in her rhetoric has always been the concern she expresses over the high number of robbery, theft and homicide cases. Since the beginning of her campaign, she’s repeatedly highlighted the need for a radical and decisive program to deal with these issues. According to polls carried out by the Governor’s administration, inhabitants of Buenos Aires Province, especially those from the metropolitan area (mainly Lomas de Zamora, San Martín, La Matanza, Avellaneda and Lanús, as well as Mar del Plata and Bahía Blanca) cite insecurity as their top concern. Vidal wants to tackle this issue, and has come up with a plan that she hopes will alleviate the problem.
The primary goal is to increase security in areas where the crime rate is high enough to require severe measures. There are 190 critical zones in Buenos Aires Province, each of which is now scheduled to receive a reinforcement of approximately 800 cavalry and infantry officers, in an attempt to gain control over these at risk neighborhoods. This heavy territorial occupation will focus on the time frame between 6 pm and midnight when everyone is getting back home from work. Groups of 3 or 4 officers will be on guard duty in crucial spots, partially relying on their uniforms and weapons to instil respect and obedience. Vidal’s new plan is said to draw inspiration from the armed police of France and Israel.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Security for Buenos Aires Province, headed by Cristian Ritondo, is developing a complementary project, the Tactic Unit of Immediate Operations (UTOI), which intends to deal with extreme situations such as catastrophes, floods or fires. Its main purpose is to deal with unexpected events instantaneously, focusing on action, rather than prevention and avoiding ‘bureaucratic delays’. As well as regular 9-month education periods, members of UTOI (mostly recent graduates) have gone through 5 additional months of training. The headquarters of this new organization is located in Puente 12, between La Matanza and Ezeiza.
Adjustments of this kind wouldn’t be enough without a few extra upgrades. The force is set to receive 200 new mobile offices (118 of which are already functioning), 20 new surveillance towers (of which 5 are now in operation) and more than 1000 new vehicle fleets (630 of which have already been delivered).
“We want to put police officers onto the streets,” summarized Vidal. However, there are some criticisms to be made of her approach to security matters. One could point to the portion of organized crime in Argentina that depends on the security forces and politicians to be at best unprofessional and ineffective, and at worst corrupt and eager to take a cut. Will Vidal end up arming the very criminals she claims to be working against?